Interview: Q&A with KUUNATIC – Adrift in Tokyo (January 2022)

KUUNATIC photo by Taku Katayama

It’s a true blessing when we meet musicians able to spur us to leave our comfort zone behind. Kuunatic, a leftfield and far-out all-female Tokyo-based trio is the latest act who has led us far away from our ‘safe place’.

To make your way into the Kuunatic world, you have to embrace psychedelia, avant-garde and prog-rock, welcome Japanese traditional and percussive elements and get ready to be taken by surprise by musical unpredictability.

To learn more about Yuko, Fumie and Shoko and their project, we reached them for a Q&A delving into the story of the band, exploring their musical inspirations and shining a light on their recently released debut album Gate of Klüna and upcoming Euro tour.

Despite being Gate of Klüna, your debut LP, you have already released two EPs and a split album. Can you retrace KUUNATIC’s story for us? How did the project come about and how has it grown since 2016?

We formed in 2016 in Tokyo. We all met through mutual friends. We released our first EP Kuurandia in 2017, later it became vinyl in 2019 thanks to Extra Noir. In 2018 we had a split 7” single Roho Ulio Towek with a Taiwanese band Crocodelia, and contributed a song “Dewbow” to a compilation album Seitō by Akuphone in 2019.

We have been playing shows and touring in Japan, Taiwan and Europe, growing steadily, the pandemic slowed us down but here we are with a debut album, finally.

How and how much has your sound changed in these five years?

At the beginning, we were all new to the instruments we play now, so our music might have sounded more experimental and avant-garde. Shoko joined us in 2018 and the bass sound became more like the guitar sound, and gradually our ritual and fantasy world became more vivid and epic. Now we are getting closer to the sound we truly want to express.

Gate of Klüna has quite an eclectic soul, which is a reflection of your distinct music backgrounds. Can you let us know a bit more about your music life before KUUNATIC?

Fumie used to engage in a Japanese traditional shrine music troupe. 

Yuko was a metalhead.  

Shoko used to be a drummer of two bands. Also has her solo project which is still going.

Gate of Klüna was released little more than a month ago. Can you present it to us? When did the album project start and what are the meanings behind it?

Our first EP’s title Kuurandia is the name of a fantasy planet we live on. It’s a new planet, and we extended the concept for our new album Gate of Klüna. It’s inspired by ancient myths, but we developed ideas when we toured Europe and spent lots of time together in 2018 and 2019. We saw, experienced and felt so many same and different things during the tours, so we shared and mixed them all together. All songs tell a story and they are placed in order. It shows how the planet began, evolved and explored.

Is there any song on your album that you are particularly fond of and would like to talk about?

Whole album! This is the story: Sacred bells ring at the dawn of a new era. Our new empress rises with magical refrains. As the planet prospers, Kuurandians hold a ball under the full moon and celebrate the richness of the harvest. The peaceful time seems to last forever…. until a gigantic volcano emerges in the middle of moonrise mountains.

KUUNATIC chants enigmatic mantras like praying, to prevent its eruption. However, unidentified invaders appear from its roaming lava, and the war of predation begins. KUUNATIC fights and drops their magical spells, and finally they conquer the battle. Then three pythonesses sing a mystic triumph song, leading their people to a deep dreamy forest.  

Your sound can be possibly defined as psych-everything. How can you bring and blend together so many different influences and how does the creative process work in your band?

That is a result of making efforts to embody everything that inspires us, we hope. All of us have different inspirations and ideas, so we enjoy combining everything and generating something completely new out of them.

Since “Distant Song”, your videoclips have always been really interesting, particular works brimming with references and perfectly fitting your music. Are you directly involved in their production?

We tell our music video directors stories about our songs, but we always ask them to picture what they feel and what they imagine when they listen to our music. They have been wonderful collaborations with creative artists. 

What are your most recent musical experiences? Is there any musician/band or album that you have on repeat?

Fumie: Yoshiko SaiTaiji No Yume

Yuko: Cradle of FilthExistence is Futile 

Shoko: Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony OrchestraPromises

Gate of Klüna was released by Glitterbeat… How was it to work with such a dedicated label? Is there any other artist/band in their roster you admire?

Glitterbeat Records is a really supportive and solid company. We are extremely happy and grateful that our album was released by them. We love Dal:um, Širom, Altin Gün, Sonido Gallo Negro and King Aysoba.

I read that Gate of Klüna was produced by an ’eminence’ of experimental and psychedelic music, Tim DeWit. How was it to work with him and what did he bring/add to the sound on the album?

It was such a great opportunity and experience to work with Tim. We had basic ideas for our songs, but he gave us what we were missing, and made our album more rich and theatrical. It was really mind-blowing for us to work with someone who could suggest different approaches to strange music like ours. 

KUUNATIC and your sound are embodiments of the Tokyo multifaceted music scene. I know that it’s extremely diverse with new acts sprouting on a daily basis, but is there any aspect or highlight you would like to share with us about the music scene in your city? 

Sadly, there were much fewer events in Tokyo due to COVID regulations this year. And it was such a hard time for small venues we like and often go to.

However, even in this situation, Forestlimit, where we organised our event before, set up a new online platform called ForestTV and they streamed live shows. They also created an online community and it livened up. From experimental to noise, electro to dance music, various bands and artists play at this venue. Recently the coronavirus situation in Tokyo is calming down so Forestlimit now holds physical events.

Please visit them if you are coming to Tokyo in the future: https://www.forestlimit.com/

Also is there any musician/band from your city that you would like to suggest we listen to?

Ms.Machine – https://blackholekuroiana.bandcamp.com/album/v-r

…and 俚謡山脈 Riyo Mountains – https://www.mixcloud.com/riyomountains/

With a debut album just out, what are your plans for the near future?

We are going to tour Europe in May-June 2022. Really, really excited!! And we will start working on a second album shortly. 

We always close our interviews with a tricky question… How would you introduce KUUNATIC and your sound to someone who never listened to your music before?

We play tribal tale music. All songs have stories. It’s dreamy, ritual, primitive and sometimes horror.

 


As anticipated KUUNATIC will be visiting and touring the UK in late Spring... Check out their upcoming dates and book your tickets below:

 24 May - Bristol, Crofters Rights
 25 May - Birmingham, Hare and Hounds
 26 May - Liverpool, Future Yard 
 27 May - Manchester, Talleyrand
 28 May - Aberdeen, Tunnel1
 29 May - Newcastle, The Cluny 
 31 May - London, Café Oto

 

 

Photo ©: Taku Katayama

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